Dear Friends in Christ,
As Christmas draws near, the familiar music of the season fills our surroundings. The melodies and words of various religious hymns lift us from the mundane affairs of everyday life and carry us into the joy of Christmas Day.
The first Christmas hymn, which established for all time the words that linger to our day, was not composed by human beings, but by the angels who were the “evangelists” of Christmas night. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men,” announced the angels! These divine messengers proclaimed the long awaited good news: the savior has been born. The child born in humble surroundings, the child foretold by the prophet Isaiah as the “Prince of Peace,” brings to people who enjoy His favor, to people of good will, the gift of peace.
How we all long for peace! Peace within our hearts and in our homes; peace within our communities where violence too often exists; peace on the world stage that is beset by hostility and bloodshed.
We yearn for a world in which people live in right relationship with one another, where trust in relationships and human affairs is evident, where people can live without fear and deprivation. Peace on earth, in all its forms, is our desire. Peace is the goal that people of good will must seek.
The song of the angels announces the way to lasting peace: the glory of God. There is no lasting peace unless we acknowledge the primacy of God. There is no lasting peace in our hearts, our communities and the world unless we recognize God’s glory manifested in Christ, the incarnate love of God, and live according to the great commandment of love of God and neighbor. The glory of God shines on the face of Christ (cf. 2Cor. 4:6). It is in the well beloved Son that we see the glory of God. When we listen to the Son, assimilate His words and deeds and follow His example, we find our personal peace and the grace to promote peace among others.
The Infancy Narratives in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew present the familiar faces of those who were present at Christ’s birth or in the days immediately following it. Mary and Joseph are there. Then the shepherds, the magi, and Simeon and Anna appear. Each of them is an example of how we can give glory to God. Mary is the woman of prayer who heard God’s Word, treasured it in her heart and accepted it with the “yes” of faith. Joseph is the “righteous man,” the one who can truly hear and see what God demands of him, even when it seems improbable and difficult. The shepherds approach the stable with simplicity, unfettered by worldly status. The magi steadfastly search for the true Lord and King until they find Him in the most unlikely of circumstances. Simeon and Anna, living in the Temple — God’s dwelling place — patiently wait and pray for the savior to come. Because God plays a decisive role in the lives of Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and magi, Simeon and Anna, they are able to be people of peace.
As we draw near to the Crib, we can follow their example. Like them we can be people of prayer, searching for God’s will, unfettered by worldly status and power. We can seek to truly hear and see what God asks of us and say our “yes” to God at work in our lives. Then we will be people of peace.
At Christmas time, we gather in our Churches to acknowledge God’s goodness and His presence as Emmanuel — God with us. In her liturgies, the Church re-creates the very mood we are trying to celebrate. Despite the difficulties that exist all around us, the liturgy helps us to “lift up our hearts” because it celebrates the cause for our joy: “Today . . . a savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Lk. 2:11) Pope St. Leo the Great offers these consoling words: “No one is shut out from the joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, Victor over sin and death, finding no man free from sin, came to free us all.”
These days of rejoicing draw us ever closer into the mystery of God’s love. In the birth of His Son, we experience the fidelity of God, who sees our need, hears the desires of our hearts and responds with merciful love. May this celebration of Christ’s love for us encourage us to recommit ourselves to the glory of God that leads to peace for ourselves and all men and women of good will. Regular attendance at Sunday Mass and the worthy reception of our Lord in Holy Communion are a priceless source of the divine grace that will assist and sustain us in our efforts.
Like the angels, we are called to be evangelizers — to bring the Good News of God’s love to our family and community. May the joy and hope that the Christ Child offers to the world bring peace and unity to you and your family both now and into the New Year.
Devotedly Yours in Christ,